The Importance of Just Cause

The Importance of Just Cause

“Just Cause” means an employee can’t be disciplined, suspended, or fired “just be-cause.” It means due process at work – the same way that in a court of law people are entitled to a fair and spelled out procedure. At work, under “just cause,” members are entitled to the same.

In a field where telling uncomfortable truths is foundational, the threat of being fired for any reason based on the company’s sole editorial judgment is a muzzle on investigative and in-depth reporting. A free press relies on the freedom from the fear of being fired because management doesn’t like an article.

The Globe’s proposal would eliminate the Guild’s ability to grieve and arbitrate verbal warnings, written warnings, and final written warnings. Worse yet, the proposal would allow management to use warnings to constitute progressive discipline even though the Guild would never get the chance to put the merits of these warnings before an arbitrator. This is the polar opposite of Just Cause.

They’ve also added a new “Editorial Terminations” provision that creates a loophole so large to essentially render Just Cause in our contract meaningless. This sneaky “Editorial Terminations” provision would take away members’ rights to challenge the company’s decision if it is unfair or unjust or take it to an arbitrator. Globe management would be the judge, jury, and executioner. If there is no way to hold the company accountable, there’s nothing to stop them from firing someone under an “editorial” pretext for any reason, or no reason at all.

Just Cause is a standard contained in most union contracts, in all types of industries, and has been codified as a standard through legal and arbitration precedent. Attacking Just Cause is a typical management trick. We deserve better.

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The Company Continues its Unseemly Battle Against its Union Employees, a Situation that Should Have Been Resolved Long Ago

The Company Continues its Unseemly Battle Against its Union Employees, a Situation that Should Have Been Resolved Long Ago

wgbh.com by Dan Kennedy, WGBH 12-23-20

Linda Henry takes charge, Nov. 18. Some five months after Vinay Mehra exited as president of Boston Globe Media Partners, managing director Linda Pizzuti Henry got a title enhancement: she was named chief executive of the company, which comprises The Boston Globe, Stat News and Boston.com. Although the COVID-related advertising meltdown hurt the Globe as it did every other media company, 2020 turned out to be a good year for owners John and Linda Henry. The Globe’s paid digital circulation passed the long-sought 200,000 mark, and Stat News emerged as a national leader on COVID coverage. Moreover, the company employs about 300 full-time journalists across its three platforms — a far higher number than would be expected under chain ownership. That said, the company continues its unseemly battle against its union employees, a situation that should have been resolved long ago.”

For the full article: https://www.wgbh.org/news/commentary/2020/12/23/a-wary-but-grateful-look-back-at-2020-the-worst-year-ever

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Two Years, No Contract: Inside The Boston Globe

Two years, no contract: Inside The Boston Globe

Boston Business Journal by Don Seiffert 12-23-20

Last month, executives at the Boston Globe held an online town hall meeting just hours after they were the subject of a scathing letter from the newspaper’s union.

The union, which represents 300 journalists and business-side employees, had criticized the company and its owners, Linda and John Henry, for continuing to employ the law firm Jones Day to handle contract negotiations. Jones Day, which had long represented the Trump campaign, had recently come under fire for filing a lawsuit on behalf of Republicans over mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. Globe journalists argued they were unable to fairly report on the election aftermath if they were at the same time dealing with that same law firm in seeking a new contract.

But at the Nov. 18 town hall, executives didn’t address the complaint at all. Rather, they announced that Linda Pizzuti Henry, who had been acting as the company’s de facto leader since the sudden departure of the company’s president months earlier, would officially assume the role of CEO. Executives also announced the promotions of five top executives to new roles, and two other recent top-level hires were celebrated.

Many of the members of the Boston Newspaper Guild (BNG) — who had not gotten raises in two years since the last contract expired in December 2018 — saw the meeting as a slap in the face. “It was like they’re putting on a show, and we were all peasants,” said one person who was on the Zoom call. “It was just tone-deaf.”

The meeting was another flashpoint in the union’s bitter fight to maintain contractual protections against staffing cuts. Ever since talks began in 2018, union members have shown their dissatisfaction with what’s been offered by the company, but in the past few months, despite most staffers working from home, the complaints have become more public as both sides have put out warring memos arguing their case.

Two years in, the standoff at New England’s largest media organization promises to get even more visible in coming months, as the Boston Newspaper Guild promises to start bringing its concerns about how the changes sought by the Globe will affect the paper directly to readers.

“A lot of our journalists are from Massachusetts. They all grew up reading the Globe, and they don’t want it to go down in quality,” said Matt Rocheleau, BNG’s secretary who has been involved in negotiations. “And it will go down in quality if the things they want take effect.”

Currently, the union says it’s waiting for a response to “nearly one dozen outstanding requests for information that journalists know are needed to get to the next level of discussions.”

In an emailed statement, the company did not address the specifics of negotiations, but said the Henrys have made “significant investments” that have “strengthened the Globe, furthered its mission, and positioned it for long-term sustainability.”

“The company has avoided newsroom layoffs during the pandemic and provided accommodations, additional benefits, and financial support to all staff during these challenging times ー even without a new labor contract in place,” the company said. “The Globe is eager to finalize a new contract and is awaiting the Guild’s return to the bargaining table.”

Admiration and skepticism
While some of the biggest impasses in contract talks have recently spilled out into internal memos from both the company and the union, both sides declined to talk about specifics. Much of the information for this article came from interviews with 10 people familiar with the inner workings of the Globe’s business. The sources include both active and non-active union members, and both business-side and editorial employees.

Many expressed thanks and admiration for the Henrys’ decision to buy the Globe in 2013. None of the sources had any serious complaints about Linda Henry’s management or leadership. One even praised her leadership, citing a time she showed up with her kids in early 2016, during a company-wide crisis, to help deliver newspapers. More recently, they said, the company has been generous in offering employees free classes, and some praised Linda as a strong supporter of women in leadership. A source in the company’s Taunton printing facility said that there have been no layoffs among print and mailroom workers there due to the pandemic, despite print weekday subscriptions falling another 15% year-over-year.

However, journalists and business-side workers say they are “perplexed” by what they call the company’s inflexible stance over certain aspects of the contract. Indeed, pay raises and benefits have never been the focus of the talks, but rather they’ve centered on a number of changes from previous contracts regarding protections for workers. A few — including a dispute over the company’s obligations to pay overtime to some employees — have been resolved, but three major sticking points remain:

  • Layoffs according to seniority. In the past, the company has agreed to cut workers according to how long they’ve worked at the Globe, with the longest-serving workers going last. Sources said this is of particular concern to some of the business-side employees, many of whom have worked at the company for decades.
  • The ability to fire editorial employees for failure to “uphold editorial standards.” After much wrangling, the two sides have a tentative agreement that workers generally can’t be fired without “just cause,” as in previous contracts. But the union says the company still insists on a provision that would allow editorial employees — which make up two-thirds of the guild’s 300 members — to be fired for a broad range of reasons. They argue that “editorial standards” could be cited for anything from a copy-editing error to a story that the Henrys, who own the Red Sox and several other business enterprises, simply don’t like.
  • The contract would remain in place if the Henrys sell the company: This clause has ensured workers that any new owner can’t come in and clean house. Many staffers pointed to the company’s continued desire to eliminate the clause as baffling in light of the Henrys’ repeated assertions that they have no plans to sell the paper, especially now that Linda’s new role as CEO seems to confirm the Henrys’ personal investment in the company.

‘Union-busting law firm’
The current negotiation isn’t the worst the paper has seen in recent decades. Workers went without a contract for more than three years until striking an agreement in 2004, and in 2009, the paper’s then-owner, The New York Times, threatened to shut the paper down entirely unless the union quickly agreed to concessions.

But staffers say that the company’s unwillingness to compromise on what they see as crucial provisions is new. Many speculate that it partially stems from the company’s attempt to discipline columnist Kevin Cullen in 2018 due to what the Globe reported to be “significant problems in a series of radio interviews and some public remarks he made in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.” In December 2018, after months of arbitration, Cullen’s suspension was overturned.

Several union members also believe that the Henrys are being urged to take a hard line by Jones Day, which arguably has an interest in burnishing its image as a firm that can negotiate union contracts favorable to owners of media companies. In a written statement on behalf of the union, Rocheleau called Jones Day a “highly priced, union-busting law firm” that is “running up a giant and unnecessary tab at the expense of readers and the Henrys.”

“It is our understanding that the longer the talks last, the more Jones Day gets paid, and that’s reflected in their unnecessarily extreme and stalled out approach. We think that if John Henry or Linda Pizzuti Henry were paying attention to what Jones Day is doing, and how much the law firm is costing readers and the paper, ownership and the new CEO might grab the wheel and take back control,” said Rocheleau.

The Globe did not respond to questions about its hiring of Jones Day, and Patricia Dunn, the Jones Day attorney who is overseeing negotiation for the company, did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment.

But while the company appears dug in on its position, members of the union appear unwilling to agree to any contract that doesn’t include the key provisions. Of the 10 people familiar with the inner workings of the company who were interviewed, none said they believed there is any appetite among members to acquiesce to the Globe’s demands. One staffer who is not heavily involved in union activities conceded that there may be “a grain of truth” to the notion that the negotiating team is caught up in the fight, but even that staffer said they prioritize protections for employees over short-term pay raises and benefits.

One longtime Globe reporter said that Jones Day’s involvement seems to have wasted much of the past two years. The reporter said that even when the New York Times was threatening to close the paper, the two sides were able to advance negotiations more quickly than they have in recent years.

“I think morale is depressed for sure,” the reporter said, but added that staffers are generally willing to fight rather than give in.

“I don’t hear from people saying, ‘Why is the Guild holding us up?’” the reporter said. “I just don’t see how we get out of this. I don’t see how this ends well.”

For the full article: https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2020/12/23/two-years-no-contract-what-s-really-going-on-ins.html

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Open Letter from Boston Globe Staff to Globe Executives.

Open Letter from Boston Globe Staff to Globe Executives

Dear John, Linda, and Globe Executives,

As you know, the staff of the Boston Globe has repeatedly raised concerns about the resources that Boston Globe officials are squandering on services from the Jones Day law firm — resources that should be invested in serving our readers and in retaining journalists, not in trying to advance policies that drive journalists away from working at the Boston Globe, and that undermine the Boston Globe as a critical institution within the region it serves.

We are troubled by the resources you have invested in Jones Day, given what we view as the firm’s repeated and chronic failure over many months to demonstrate an interest in doing what is best for our newspaper as an institution. We are also troubled that this relationship links our ownership, through Jones Day, to a federal administration that has attacked and demonized journalists, calling them “the enemy of the people.”

In recent days, those concerns grew deeper in light of revelations that Jones Day is involved in litigation that the firm’s own lawyers believe is designed “to erode public confidence in the election results” and undermine the voting process that is a cornerstone of American democracy, according to recent New York Times reports.

Given the Globe’s wide-ranging coverage of election-related news, we believe readers have a right to be aware of the relationship between the Globe and Jones Day, just as Globe readers have routinely been informed of the business relationship between Globe ownership and the Boston Red Sox.

We believe you should reconsider your relationship with Jones Day, an association that has already damaged our journalists’ trust in your leadership —  and which we fear may also damage our readers’ trust in the Globe at a critical moment.

As you know, the Globe has paid Jones Day significant sums for the past two years in its ongoing quest to strip away basic workplace protections from Globe journalists. How can the Globe’s political journalists be asked to continue to endure such workplace attacks from the very law firm whose actions they are now reporting on and investigating?

This continued relationship with Jones Day poses a conflict of interest and raises serious ethical concerns for our journalists that cannot be ignored.

Jones Day has a well-established reputation for using aggressive worker disenfranchisement strategies and what we consider to be anti-democratic union busting tactics to undermine working conditions and protections for journalists at media companies across the country. Many such companies have seen a subsequent decline in talent and quality.

Over the past two years, Jones Day’s involvement with the Globe has inflicted serious damage. It has eroded trust between employees and owners, and destroyed morale among journalists at the Globe, contributing to a recent exodus of talent, at a time when our jobs are more essential to our democracy than ever before.

Our representative committee, on behalf of nearly 300 Boston Globe employees who are members of the Boston Newspaper Guild (BNG-TNG/CWA Local 31245), implores you to respond to these concerns immediately.

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John Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry Face Criticism for Boston Globe Ties to Controversial Law Firm

John Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry Face Criticism for Boston Globe Ties to Controversial Law Firm

BOSTON, MA — A committee representing nearly 300 journalists and staff at the Boston Globe, the highest circulation daily newspaper in New England, has sent a letter (below) to the newspaper’s ownership and Managing Director, John Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry, criticizing the ties between the Globe and Jones Day, a law firm that has become embroiled in election-related controversies.

Henry is also the owner of the Boston Red Sox, Roush Fenway Racing, and the Liverpool Football Club, and of the Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of those clubs, which has been reported to be in the process of merging with RedBall Acquisition Corp. as part of a potential IPO.

A number of staff at Jones Day have recently spoken out to the New York Times regarding the firm’s role in recent electoral litigation, with concern that “the main goal of the litigation seemed to be to erode public confidence in the election results.”

The Boston Globe journalists’ letter (below) comes on the heels of revelations and reports that Jones Day filed litigation challenging issues pertaining to the security and outcome of the Presidential election in Pennsylvania.

The letter from Globe journalists to John Henry, Linda Pizzuti Henry, and to top Globe executives reads in part:

“We believe you should reconsider your relationship with Jones Day, an association that has already damaged our journalists’ trust in your leadership —  and which we fear may also damage our readers’ trust in the Globe at a critical moment.

As you know, the Globe has paid Jones Day significant sums for the past two years in its ongoing quest to strip away basic workplace protections from Globe journalists. How can the Globe’s political journalists be asked to continue to endure such workplace attacks from the very law firm whose actions they are now reporting on and investigating?

This continued relationship with Jones Day poses a conflict of interest and raises serious ethical concerns for our journalists that cannot be ignored.”

The letter continues:

“Over the past two years, Jones Day’s involvement with the Globe has inflicted serious damage. It has eroded trust between employees and owners, and destroyed morale among journalists at the Globe, contributing to a recent exodus of talent, at a time when our jobs are more essential to our democracy than ever before.”

Boston Globe journalists expressed dismay about what they have viewed for months as a misallocation of resources to the controversial law firm at a time when they believe those resources should be used to retain journalists and bolster journalism at the Boston Globe for the benefit of its readers and the public good.

“Instead of using their ample resources to further invest in essential, top-notch journalism, the Henrys have sent significant sums of money into the Jones Day coffers,” said Boston.com reporter Kevin Slane, one of the committee members who signed the letter. “I’m deeply disappointed that John and Linda think employing a law firm that appears to be enabling and profiting from this unprecedented attack on our democracy is an acceptable way of doing business.”

“Guild leadership has heard from many members who are deeply concerned by the Globe’s close ties to Jones Day, and management’s silence on the matter thus far is telling,” said Boston Globe reporter and Guild recording secretary Matt Rocheleau. “It’s sad that management hired a law firm with a reputation for deploying aggressive tactics to strip away basic workplace protections from journalists, and it’s even sadder that the company is continuing to stand by them.”

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New York Times: Ethical Issues Raised

New York Times: Ethical Issues Raised

On November 18, the New York Times covered the news of the Boston Newspaper Guild’s open letter to Globe executives:

“…Ms. Henry, 42, is taking the top job at a time of rising tensions between The Globe’s management and its union, the Boston Newspaper Guild, which have been in negotiations over a new contract since the last one expired at the end of 2018.

“Matt Rocheleau, a Globe investigative reporter and the union’s recording secretary, said the elevation of Ms. Henry did not offer the staff much hope for a swift conclusion.

“‘It really depends on if she is going to take a different approach to what has been taken,’ he said in an interview. ‘We haven’t seen yet any signal that management is going to change, but we hope it does.’

“The promotion of Ms. Henry was announced on a day when Globe employees criticized ties between the newspaper and the Jones Day law firm, which has represented President Trump and his campaign and has been representing the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in litigation over mail-in votes.

“In an open letter to the Henrys and other executives on Wednesday, Globe union members said Boston Globe Media Partners’ use of Jones Day raised ethical issues and asked the company to reconsider its relationship with the firm. The Times reported this month that some Jones Day lawyers said they were concerned that the firm’s recent work was undermining the integrity of the electoral system.

“‘Given the Globe’s wide-ranging coverage of election-related news, we believe readers have a right to be aware of the relationship between The Globe and Jones Day, just as Globe readers have routinely been informed of the business relationship between Globe ownership and the Boston Red Sox,’ the letter said.

“Mr. Rocheleau said the paper’s journalism must be free from any apparent conflicts of interest. ‘The Globe has run New York Times wire stories about Jones Day, about election-related lawsuits, and there was no disclosure about the relationship to the company with Jones Day,’ he said….”

Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/business/media/boston-globe-linda-henry.html

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The Henrys Must Now Settle an Ugly Labor Dispute on Their Own​

The Henrys Must Now Settle An Ugly Labor Dispute On Their Own

On WGBH on November 18, Dan Kennedy reported on the BNG Open Letter:

“….The Henrys must now settle an ugly labor dispute on their own. Earlier today the Boston Newspaper Guild, involved for quite some time in acrimonious contract talks with management, issued a statement ripping the Henrys for using the law firm of Jones Day, which critics say has a reputation for union-busting.

“That’s not new. What is new is that Jones Day has been involved in representing Republicans in their attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election. ‘How can the Globe’s political journalists be asked to continue to endure such workplace attacks from the very law firm whose actions they are now reporting on and investigating?,’ the union’s letter asks….”

Read the full WGBH article: https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2020/11/18/three-reasons-why-it-matters-linda-pizzuti-henry-was-named-boston-globe-ceo

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Reuters: Boston Globe Union Members Press Management to Drop Jones Day

Reuters: Boston Globe union members press management to drop Jones Day

On November 18, Reuters reported on the Boston Newspaper Guild’s open letter:

“The Boston Globe’s employee union on Wednesday urged the news outlet’s management to stop using Jones Day as outside counsel in ongoing contract negotiations, as the elite law firm faces blowback for representing Republicans in election-related litigation.

“Guild members wrote in a letter to Globe owner John Henry and executives that the newspaper having ties to Jones Day may ‘damage our readers’ trust’ and amounts to a conflict of interest as Globe journalists are reporting on the law firm….”

Read the full article: https://www.reuters.com/article/lawyer-trump-jones-day/boston-globe-union-members-press-management-to-drop-jones-day-idUSL1N2I4330

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BBJ: Labor Tensions Simmer

BBJ: Labor Tensions Simmer

On November 18, the Boston Business Journal covered the Boston Newspaper Guild’s open letter in their article, “Linda Henry to take reins at Boston Globe as labor tensions simmer:”

“Linda Pizzuti Henry, who has held the title of managing director at the Boston Globe’s parent company for the past seven years, has been named the chief executive, taking the reins of the company just as tensions between employees and management appear to be at a boiling point….

“Just hours before Linda Henry’s announcement, the union that represents 300 employees on the Globe’s editorial and business teams issued a scathing memo criticizing both Linda and John Henry for the Globe’s ties to the national law firm Jones Day, which has been under fire nationally for its work representing the Trump reelection campaign in what many see as baseless lawsuits alleging voter fraud and misconduct.

“Jones Day, known for representing media companies in contract talks and for taking a tough stance in trying to remove many longtime protections for newspaper employees, was hired in late 2018 to oversee negotiations between the Globe and the Boston Newspaper Guild. The two sides have not agreed on a contract since the last one expired more than 22 months ago.

“The letter from BNG to John and Linda Henry says, ‘We believe you should reconsider your relationship with Jones Day, an association that has already damaged our journalists’ trust in your leadership — and which we fear may also damage our readers’ trust in the Globe at a critical moment…. This continued relationship with Jones Day poses a conflict of interest and raises serious ethical concerns for our journalists that cannot be ignored.’

“The letter also says many journalists have ‘expressed dismay about what they have viewed for months as a misallocation of resources to the controversial law firm at a time when they believe those resources should be used to retain journalists and bolster journalism at the Boston Globe for the benefit of its readers and the public good.’

Matt Rocheleau, Boston Globe reporter and BNG recording secretary, said in a statement that ‘Guild leadership has heard from many members who are deeply concerned by the Globe’s close ties to Jones Day, and management’s silence on the matter thus far is telling….'”

Read the full article on the BBJ website: https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2020/11/18/linda-henry-to-take-reins-at-boston-globe-as-labor.html

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